This is the first in a series of short stories highlighting the good parts of being a member of a rabid fan base in a small market.
My dad loves basketball. Loves it. So when my parents moved to Utah in 1981, he made a plan to get Jazz season tickets. In 1983 he got his wish and he had his tickets. Because my mom wasn’t as much of a sports fan, part of the spousal negotiation of buying these tickets was the agreement that he was going to take the kids with him as often as possible for some dad time. The only problem: His four kids were 7, 5, 3 (yours truly), and 1. Anyone that has wrestled a small kid in a grocery aisle knows that these are not ideal ages for attending professional basketball games. If anything testifies of my dad’s undying allegiance to this game and team, it’s the early years as a Jazz season ticket holder. There were multiple times where he paid good money to have his kids either A) fall asleep halfway through a game or B) read a book through the third quarter. I can’t believe he suffered through it. The investment paid off, however, and he now has eight kids that love the Utah Jazz. Gone are the days of him trying to talk a small child out of a Disney video at home and into a basketball game; now there are fights for those seats.
By the time I was eight in 1988, I was a full fledged Jazz fan. I knew and loved the franchise. This was small market Salt Lake, and we felt like this was our team! These were our boys! But being a smaller market meant that the team had to do more things to gain public interest. As a result, they used to hold events where season ticket holders could go to the arena early, wait in line, and meet random members of the team. On one such night, my older brother Scott and I were thrilled when my dad asked if we would attend a fan appreciation night with him. Scott had just gotten a small yellow, green, and purple basketball for his birthday that he would get signed, and we could each get a picture with one of our basketball heroes.
The night came, and we drove to the Salt Palace early. We stood in line with the other season ticket holders, anxiously anticipating our chance to get placed with players. The odds of getting a good player were slim, though, because you could be paired with anyone on the roster. Scott and I stood there in line, excitedly talking about which players we would like to be paired with (Please, oh, please bring on Stockton or Malone!). As we approached the front of the line, my brother nervously gave me his basketball. He explained that my luck was much better than his, and I would most likely get put with one of the great Jazz players. It was flawless 10 year old logic and it made sense . . . I mean, I did have good luck! I took the ball and remember being excited to get it signed for him. John Stockton, here I come!
Minutes later we were at the front of the line, and the attendants separated me from my brother. We were taken in opposite directions, and were led off to various points in the gym where basketball players and Polaroid cameras were waiting. I remember passing player after player–Darryl Griffith, John Stockton, Mark Eaton–until finally I ended here:
Jeff will be a regular contributor on Salt City Hoops. Follow him on Twitter!